Reader Question I need to organize lots of paperwork after my parent’s funeral. There are stacks of paperwork everywhere and there must be at least 50 filing boxes that are not labeled.  How do I start? The papers seem to range from useless, to important business papers that will have to be looked at closely, to family photos and mementos.  Any guidance you can give me would be appreciated.  Thanks, -Claudia Our Response Dear Claudia, First off, please accept my sympathies for your loss. When it comes to organizing paper for a close family member who has recently passed, it can be a very emotional process. With the amount of paper you have, it would be very easy to get overwhelmed. I highly recommend you don’t do this alone. Someone with no emotional attachment can be of great value. As with all large tasks, it is best to work for short periods of time and then come back to the job. You may designate a certain day of the week or time of day to work on this project depending on how close you live. The first step with organizing any paperwork is to sort. In order to sort, you will need to decide on categories that you feel are appropriate for the paperwork that you see. Initially, you will want to keep the groupings few and broad. That is, keep categories very general at first. Later, you can adjust the categories in order to find specific papers more easily if there is a need. Assuming you have a large area to work, designate an area for the categories and label the areas with a sign or sheet of paper that has the category written on it.  To make it even easier to see, you can color code the signs. Some suggested categories are: Financial – bank statements, receipts, credit card statements, taxes, business papers, etc. Property - any information on mortgages, deeds, etc. Insurance - life, health, car, home owners insurance are included in this category. Medical - any papers on health histories, medications, doctor bills, etc. Home - owner’s manuals, utilities, and electronics Photos and Mementoes Miscellaneous You mentioned that some of the papers were “useless,” so have a large trash bin and a shredder handy to take care of those papers as soon as you come across them. Generally, financial information should be kept for another 6-7 years especially if your parent’s estate was large and complex. Other categories will be dependent on a number of circumstances. That being said, once everything is sorted, you can then handle one category at a time, using the advice of an attorney or accountant if needed. Reader Clinic Submittal Have an organizing question? We'd love to hear from you. Please fill in your answers to all questions below. Then press SEND. If your browser does not allow you to use forms, just type all of your answers in an email and send the email to Your tips and ideas may be printed in one of our future newsletters as a featured Reader Tip. In addition, it may be published in one of our future books, with your name, city and state! By submitting this form, you agree to allow us to reprint your tip(s) or idea(s) in our future publications. Be sure to read our newsletter each week to find out if your tip was chosen to be featured. Thank you! Maria Gracia To submit your Organizing Question, please fill out the form below: All fields are required










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